Xiahe has grown as a monastic town and attracts pilgrims and visitors from all over the world, who come to visit the holy Tibetan Labrang Monastery. There is a mainly Han and Hui Muslim eastern quarter and an older low-rise Tibetan village next to the monastery in the West. The town has got a lot of hotels and shops but unfortunately there are huge street constructions going on. The Main Street, but also the little paths joining the residential areas have been dug open and it seems that they are replacing the whole water system.
We walked through the town in the morning, the air was still fresh, and had a guided tour by a monk who was a philosopher. He asked essential questions about life and showed us some chapel halls. They are illuminated by yak-butter lamps which spread a strong smell. Labrang Monastery was founded in 1709 by Ngagong Tsunde, the first generation Jamyang (a line of reincarnated living Buddhas), third in importance after the Dalai and Panchen lamas. The monastery is one of the six major Tibetan monasteries of the Yellow Hat sect (Gelugpa) of Tibetan Buddhism. The other monasteries are near Lhasa. Among the six colleges of Labrang Monastery, there is the Institute of Medicine which is renowned throughout the Tibetan world. There are about 2000 monks living at the monastery today.
After the tour we circled around the pilgrimage wall and I went to town with Gaby and Gisèle. Philippe took a stroll to the mountain on his own pace and enjoyed the quietness.
Gaby, Gisèle and I enjoyed a great cappuccino and a slice of home made cake in a pretty western style coffee shop. The girl spoke good English which is a big exception. Most people here don’t even speak Mandarin. Later we shared a plate of freshly made baozi. Although we are fed-up with mutton, this dish tasted nice and not too strong. In a perfume shop where Gisèle got a moisture lip stick, we met a lovely young lady who told us that the Dalai Lama shook her hand and with tears in her eyes she took my hand and held it for a long time.
In the evening Claudia gave us an excellent input on Buddhism and explained the main features. Then we had a delicious Chinese hot pot.